A headline on today’s Huffington Post reads: “Victoria’s Secret Angel Diet Revealed: Egg Powder, No Solids & Gallons Of Water!” Who cares, right? Well, me, for starters—I clicked on the link faster than you can say “Diet Industrial Complex.”
When it comes to diet articles—specifically articles about what women eat—I think it’s only natural (if depressing) that we’re interested. And we must be, because stories like this one grace the front pages of tabloids, women’s magazines, and blogs almost daily. We live in a culture that commodifies women’s bodies and promotes near-impossible beauty ideals, so why wouldn’t we be curious as to how some of our most popular products get made? When we’re constantly told that there’s only one way that women should look (tall, young, thin, white, able-bodied, conventionally pretty, etc.), we’re bound to be curious when someone tells us how we too can look that way. A “You’re not gonna believe this diet!” headline is a lazy but surefire way to get readers, especially female readers, to pay attention.
What struck me about Ellie Krupnick’s HuffPo piece in particular, however, is that it simultaneously shames the Victoria’s Secret models for not eating enough (“So no solids and no liquids… it’s a wonder Lima and her winged gal pals don’t just pass out right on the runway!”), shames the reader for eating too much (“Want to feel bad about your own workout and diet regimen? Just talk to a Victoria’s Secret Angel”), promotes the Angels (“The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show is the Super Bowl of modeling”), and then pretends to be too cool to care (how can you be too cool for something that you’re writing about? Don’t ask me—I’m sooo over that question already). Not once does our society’s obsession with unrealistic body images get a mention though, because this is just about how lingerie models need to eat more! But you, reader, need to eat less! But no one should care because it’s “ridiculous”! (Ugh.)
Similar to the celebrity profiles that focus on how much thin famous people like to scarf junk food, articles like this one masquerade as alternatives to the dominant thin-women-are-the-best-women narrative while actually serving only to reinforce it. When we focus on what these women eat and then point fingers and judge them for it without talking about the cultural climate that accepts and encourages these beauty standards, everyone loses.
I realize that we’re far from seeing a Huffington Post headline like “Victoria’s Secret Angel Diet: None Of Your Business” or “Victoria’s Secret Angels Give Up Lingerie Modeling Because No One Cares About Beauty Standards Anymore,” but it would be nice if we could at least get away from articles like this one that both mock and promote a diet-obsessed culture at the same time.